Psalm 51:1-19

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.

Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.

Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice.

Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.

14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
The God of my salvation,
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.

16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.

18 Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;
Build the walls of Jerusalem.

19 Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,
With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.

Bathsheba (intro) — 2 Samuel 11:1-12:13

One of those things that undoubtedly qualified David as “a man after (God’s) own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) was, not that he was sinless, but that, when confronted with his sin (or sinful intentions), he immediately and sincerely confessed it and repented of it (rather than excusing, diminishing, or ignoring it). Such was exactly his response when called out by Nathan on his sins of murder and adultery and such, therefore, is exactly how he beings this psalm (cf. also his reactions when confronted by Abigail in 1 Samuel 25:23-33, and by his own conscience in 1 Samuel 24:5 and 2 Samuel 24:10). Indeed, the depth of David’s spiritual acumen and theocentric sensitivity is vividly attested by his statement in verse 4: “Against Thee, Thee alone (not “Thee only”), have I sinned” — which is to say, “Against Thee, who art alone (i.e., set apart/unparalleled) as the eternal and holy God, I have sinned.” He is not denying in any way he sinned against Uriah (and, albeit to a lesser degree, against Bathsheba); rather, he is affirming that in addition to the people against whom he has sinned, he has also, ultimately, sinned against the One who is alone in His deity. — Wechsler, page 145.

lovingkindness (v.1) — The Hebrew word is hesed, used about 250 times in the Old Testament. It means loyal, steadfast, or faithful love and stresses the idea of a belonging together of those involved in the love relationship. here it connotes God’s faithful love for His unfaithful people (love based on the covenant). — Ryrie, page 1378

The second half of verse 4 is quoted in Romans 3:4. David is saying that God is justified in judging sin, and that His statement that all have sinned is true.

I was shaped in iniquity (v.5) — Job 14:4; Psalm 58:3; John 3:6; Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:3

hyssop (v.7) — A common plant of the mint family. Because of its stiff branches and hairy leaves, it served well for sprinkling. In addition to the Passover, it was also used in the purifying of lepers (Leviticus 14:2-7), the cleansing of a plague (Leviticus 14:49-50), and the sacrificing of the red heifer (Numbers 19:2-6). — Ryrie, page 109.

David implored God’s mercy — i.e., not giving him the full punishment that he does deserve, which is death (both for murder and for adultery; see Genesis 9:6; Exodus 21:12; Leviticus 20:10). David recognizes, nonetheless, that God, in His justice, cannot simply ignore sin, and that the penalty it requires (i.e., life) must still somehow be paid (Leviticus 17:11; Psalm 49:7-8), and so he implored God to purify him with hyssop (v.7) — hearkening back to the first appearance of hyssop in the Bible, in Exodus 12:22, where it is used to apply the blood of the “unblemished” Passover lamb to one’s door, that God might “pass over” that house with the tenth plague of death.. This event, which was itself a “type,” or “foreshadowing,” of Jesus’ substitutionary (i.e., life for life) sacrifice for sin (see 1 Corinthians 5:7), establishes the use and symbolism of hyssop in the Bible as an instrument of cleansing — both internal-spiritual, as in the present psalm, and external-physical (Leviticus 14:4-7; Numbers 19:6). — Wechsler, pages 145-146.

Cleansing (v.7) in Scripture is twofold: (1) of a sinner from the guilt of sin — the blood (hyssop) aspect; and (2) of a saint from the defilement of sin — the water (wash) aspect. — Scofield, page 624

whiter than snow (v.7) — Isaiah 1:18

do not take Your Holy Spirit from me (v.11) — In the Old Testament economy, the Holy Spirit was particularly related to service, rather than salvation. Here David is asking God not to take away his service as the anointed king of Israel. — Ryrie, page 877

What David is requesting here is that God not take away His special empowerment to function wisely in the role of Israel’s king — as He removed that empowerment from Saul when He transferred the role of king to David in 1 Samuel 16:13-14 (after which Saul’s decisions as king are consistently unwise — even though he himself is still “saved”; cf. 1 Samuel 28:19. — Wechsler page 147.

I will teach transgressors Your ways (v.13) — As David, forgiven and restored, won transgressors to God, so Israel, forgiven and restored, will win nations to God. — Williams, page 339.

You do not desire sacrifice (v.16) — 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 50:8-14; Micah 6:6-8

broken spirit (v.17) — Psalm 34:18; Isaiah 57:15; 66:2

sacrifices of righteousness (v.19) — It is important to bear in mind that David’s assertion in v.16 (“Thou dost not delight in sacrifices,” etc.) does not concern sacrifice per se, but rather sacrifice offered without a proper heart-attitude and foundation of faith. Once that foundation is laid, the sacrifice, as David clearly indicates in concluding this psalm, must inevitably follow — for, as God declares through His servant Moses, “I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Leviticus 17:11; see also Hebrews 9:22). — Wechsler, pages 147-148.

David in his sin, repentance, and restoration, is a fore-picture of Israel; for as he forsook the Law and was guilty of adultery and murder, so Israel despised the Covenant, turned aside to idolatry,and murdered the Messiah. Thus the scope and structure of the Psalm go far beyond David: they predict the future confession and forgiveness of Israel in the day of Messiah’s apparition; when looking upon Him Whom they pierced they shall mourn and weep (Revelation 1:7). — Williams, pag 339

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